GHRC presented the 2013 Award to the Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders Unit (UDEFEGUA). The award was formally presented on November 14, 2013 to Claudia Samayoa, coordinator for UDEFEGUA, who accepted the award on behalf of her organization.
Highlights from the award can be seen below:
UDEFEGUA was founded in 2000 by a coalition of NGOs known as the National Human Rights Movement in order to provide holistic support to the men and women who defend human rights in Guatemala. The organization was created as a response to the need to protect increasingly vulnerable human rights defenders, so that they could carry out their work with dignity and without fear.
Since its inception, UDEFEGUA has expanded the services it offers to meet the growing challenges of doing human rights work in an increasingly hostile political context. Its team of 25 employees investigates and denounces threats and attacks against defenders, provides psychological counseling, facilitates security workshops, offers legal accompaniment, and helps strengthen the skills of human rights activists through networking and training.
UDEFEGUA constantly monitors the overall human rights situation in Guatemala and publishes monthly analysis and yearly reports, as well as thematic investigations on subjects such as criminalization, the psycho-social cost of human rights work, and the impacts on children of human rights defenders. As a member of the Convergencia de los Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Convergence), UDEFEGUA denounces ongoing threats to human rights and participates in advocacy campaigns urging the implementation of policies that guarantee the fundamental rights of all Guatemalans.
In her acceptance speech, Claudia highlighted the growth and accomplishments of UDEFEGUA over the past 13 years, and characterized the group as a support team for at-risk human rights defenders:
“But most importantly we are a team of “firefighters” rushing to be present with human rights defenders in their moments of need… whether they are submitting an official document, looking for a missing person, identifying a corpse, imprisoned or awaiting release, attending a medical appointment, evaluating risk, or facing the justice system. We accompany their families in times of uncertainty and fear, and make sure that their children are not left unprotected. We stand in solidarity with defenders, be it to mourn a defeat or celebrate a victory.”
Read the complete transcript of Claudia’s remarks in English | En Español
Read the introductory comments about UDEFEGUA by GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones in English | En Español
GHRC congratulates UDEFEGUA staff for their tireless efforts to support human rights defenders and for their outstanding contribution to the promotion of human rights in Guatemala.